There's so much that happens behind the scenes to ensure that travellers enjoy a safe flight. Picture: Clinton Moodley.
There's so much that happens behind the scenes to ensure that travellers enjoy a safe flight. Picture: Clinton Moodley.

WATCH: An exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes of a SA airline

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published May 19, 2021

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I've always wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes of a South African airline.

So when FlySafair extended an invitation for me to tour their property to learn about the day to day operations, I gladly accepted.

Taking a flight for most is heading to the airport an hour or two before their departure, check-in, boarding and take off.

However, there's so much that happens behind the scenes to ensure that travellers enjoy a safe flight.

FlySafair, in particular, employs hundreds of staff members, most of who work at the headquarters based in Johannesburg.

I visited on a warm Thursday morning.

The company, Safair, has a rich storied history that spans more than 50 years. It launched a low-cost carrier FlySafair seven years. FlySafair launched FlySafair Holidays this year and has a South Africa-Mauritius route on the horizon.

Marise Banks, the manager of Sales and Distribution at FlySafair, takes me on a tour of the property. She starts at the operations room where all the magic happens and moves to the call centre with people adorning their masks.

During the tour, I see a set of lockers that pilots once used for communication. The pilots, who now communicates via email, now use the lockers to store basic items for their upcoming trips.

After Banks introduces me to various parts of the operation, she leads me to the rooftop to enjoy a view of the planes. If you're lucky, you may see a few planes take off and land.

Many employees take in the marvellous view in between breaks.

The real treat of the tour is in the hangar where the airline parades its signature pink, white and blue colours.

The plane undergoes maintenance regularly. Picture: Clinton Moodley.

Bank first introduces me to the Lockheed Hercules L100C-30C, an old but prized possession of the company. She is a real stunner.

Safair has been operating the Lockheed aircraft since 1965. I climb up the cockpit to witness the maintenance unfold.

The interior is stripped completely. Staff are hard at work to ensure that all the parts come together perfectly. Despite its age, the Lockheed still performs as impressively as its younger counterparts.

FlySafair Chief Marketing Officer Kirby Gordon later tells me that the aircraft performs a wide variety of missions thanks to its substantial load capacity and ability to operate on short and rough runways.

"For years, Safair has deployed these aircraft on contracts for clients around the world. It performs a multitude of tasks, from relocating wildlife for conservation purposes, supporting media crew covering the Dakar Rally, performing essential food parcel drops into remote and food scare parts of Africa, spraying treatments to lessen the impact of oil spills, and research missions to Antarctica," he said.

Point of view. Picture: Clinton Moodley.

Two planes are maintained during my visit. Airline companies usually conduct regular maintenance checks on their fleet every year.

Depending on the age of the aircraft, technical upgrades are conducted if warranted. Banks leads me to the new arrival- the Boeing 737-800, and not far from it stands the 737-400.

I recognise the difference between the planes from the wings. One has a flap and the other doesn't.

Banks enlightens me on the aircraft's tail number, which is its registration number. The tail number helps with the tracking of the plane and other information.

Gordon reveals that airlines make up a wide number of moving parts.

"Safair had decades of experience in aircraft maintenance and operations, as well as crew training, behind it when we launched. However, the company had to quickly develop a number of new disciplines to manage the commercial side of the new airline, including pricing, e-commerce capabilities, marketing, and customer service to name a few things," he explained.

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